Dow’s Workplace HIV Program Stops Employee Deaths
This month we're dedicating a blog series to sharing information about business-led efforts to fight the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. We're looking specifically at corporate workplace programs that help companies and their employees manage the disease.
As part of our December Series - Workplace Solutions to Beat AIDS - BCLC caught up with Dr. Murray Coombs, Health Director for Middle East and Africa for the Dow Chemical Company. Dow, which received a GBC “commendation” in the Workplace/Workforce Engagement category of the 2011 Business Action on Health Awards, has a workplace HIV/AIDS program that has resulted in lower new infection rate for employees in Africa and zero employee deaths from the disease for five years.
Here are some of the highlights we learned from Dr. Coombs:
- Dow's workforce in Africa faced death, ill health, absence, and low productivity due to HIV/AIDS in the early years.
- Dow's HIV/AIDS policy and program has been around since 1989 and leverages both ILO and internal best practices for policy management, awareness, education and communication, continuum of care (early detection/screening, disease management, treatment, Employee Assistance Program), business impact (models, internal network collaboration, local and global approach), and contributions to external groups such business coalitions, World Economic Forum, UNAIDS, and those serving orphans and vulnerable children.
- The program has resulted in zero deaths for five years, lower new infection rate, minimal business impact from the disease, global recognition, and care for Dow's people as well as orphans and vulnerable children.
- Dr. Coombs credits the early commitment from Dow's top management as the factor that led to few issues in developing and launching the program. Still, challenges remain: "Stigma is an issue that needs continual attention. Early detection and treatment have to be reinforced regularly." Another challenge includes continuously funding the program.
- "Our continued engagement with employees, communities, and Dow leadership ensures we will overcome, give attention and find solutions," concludes Dr. Coombs.